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VOL. 127 | NO. 18 | Friday, January 27, 2012

Vornbrock Receives Ad Fed’s Silver Medal

By Sarah Baker

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Bob Vornbrock thought he was attending the Thursday, Jan. 26, American Advertising Federation Memphis meeting to hear a presentation from Fred’s Discount Stores about the marketing approach of brick-and-mortar retail.

Bob Vornbrock, right, executive vice president, client service at Sullivan Branding, receives the Memphis Ad Federation's 2012 Silver Medal from former silver medallist Dr. Richard Ranta during a luncheon at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn.

(Lance Murphey)

That presentation never happened. In its place was a surprise honoring of Vornbrock as the 2012 Silver Medal recipient – the highest lifetime achievement honor AAF Memphis gives each year.

Vornbrock was presented the medal by a current client – Fred’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, Dave Mueller.

“I never thought of myself of being deserving of this honor, but I appreciate it very much,” Vornbrock said. “This is a really exciting stage in my career.”

Before that acceptance speech, a short video was presented to the roomful of the city’s advertising executives at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis, playfully depicting the life and accomplishments of the 62-year-old marketing veteran.

After studying advertising at the University of Missouri, Vornbrock’s first job was selling ad space “like a mad man” at the Jackson Sun Times newspaper in Jackson, Tenn.

He came to Memphis in 1986 to save a little agency called Thompson & Co. Alongside Michael Thompson but often not in the public eye, Vornbrock worked on accounts for the Memphis Chamber of Commerce, American Electric, Thomas & Betts, Georgia Boots, Rocky Outdoor Gear and Fred’s.

Vornbrock also oversaw Thompson & Co.’s accounting training, agency processes, agency insurance, agency clients and agency 401(k) plans.

These days, Vornbrock is using his talents as executive vice president of client service for Sullivan Branding, the result of cs2 advertising acquiring Thompson & Co. in September.

Outside of advertising, Vornbrock’s civic involvement includes past board memberships at the Chickasaw Business Council Continuum, the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence, Leadership Memphis and Collierville United Methodist Church.

Playing along and keeping the secret were Vornbrock’s family and a handful of past and present colleagues, including Ralph Berry and Brian Sullivan, principal of Sullivan Branding.

Sullivan noted what he’s learned from Vornbrock over the years, first working with him at Thompson & Co. and again now at the combined 80-person firm.

“Bob always believed that great work was only great if it got great results,” Sullivan said. “I learned a great deal from Bob. I also have the pleasure of working with him again in a different capacity. I have the opportunity to absorb some of your patience, to put in long hours and really feel the satisfaction of getting results. Thank you for the opportunity to work with you again, and thank you for all that you’ve meant for me and my career.”

Also in attendance was Selena Henson, who told the crowd about Vornbrock’s efforts during Collierville United Methodist Church’s capital campaign to raise $6 million and build three new buildings.

“That takes courage, passion and creativity everyday,” Henson said. “Collierville United Methodist Church would describe you as a leader, active, kind, on and on. I am honored to know you and walk alongside you in our faith.”

Vornbrock has also helped the 1,200 residents at the Wesley Senior Ministries Foundation to have a better life, Henson said.

No stranger to recognition by the AAF Memphis, Vornbrock was named as the organization’s “2005 Ad Man of the Year.”

Any member of the AAF can make Silver Medal nominations, but only past recipients of the award can sit on the selection committee. Among those is Thompson, receiver of the 1996 Silver Medal.

“You may not know Bob because he’s never liked the limelight,” Thompson told the crowd. “But I know Bob. We had thousands of meetings and never had a cross word. He never wanted to compete, he let me go out and have all of the fun. He wouldn’t be in Ad Fed because I was. He said I’ll go do this with the Chamber.”

Thompson said he witnessed Vornbrock have two revelations during their 25 years together. One was that his job was to serve as a client’s consultant to better their business, and that it’s OK to not agree with everything they say.

The other revelation was about his wife and mother of his two children.

“He said, ‘I know why God put me here on this Earth,’” Thompson said. “It was very short and sweet – he said, ‘He put me here to take care of Beth so she can go out and do all the good work she does.' I told that to the election committee.”

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